Stolen Joys

My gratitude goal for 2020 was to learn to appreciate free will by exercising it.

I’m quite lucky. I live in a country that many wouldn’t want to belong to at this moment in history.

Yet I do have certain freedoms. A lot of people in this country don’t have the freedom to dream. Life is all about survival for most. Seeing beyond that is difficult under such circumstances. But for some, we can deal with the issue of survival and dream about what comes after that at the same time. We have the privilege of free will. If my job torments me, I can figure out how to supplement that income and leave – especially now that this volatile country is experiencing an upswing. If I have an abusive husband, divorce is a possible option. I was not born into the kind of circumstances where child marriage was ever something that could happen to me. I have had the opportunity to travel and experience totally different cultures. I could go on.

The long and short of it is that I would be lying if I said I had no choices in life, because in some ways, I have had the advantage of free will where someone else didn’t or where it would have been dangerous for that person to activate it.

So, at the beginning of the year, I dedicated 2020 to activating the freewill I do have and using the privilege of exercising this free will in order to straighten out a few things in my life. I thought that doing this would be a good way to show my appreciation for this gift. And I’m proud to say it worked. Not only did I manage to deal with key things that had been a thorn in my flesh for a few years now, I also was able to see where I could have taken responsibility but fell short.

It’s true what they say: a lot goes wrong while the rest of us are passively thinking there’s nothing we can do. I became the solution to problems I thought I was not equipped or positioned to handle. I learned how valuable each of us are. When we think we’re not, is when somebody needs us or when we need the best part of ourselves the most. Thinking we’re not important serves no one. It’s not that we’re insignificant, it’s that we opted out of significance: in our families, amongst our friends, at work, in our love lives, in achieving our goals, in being true to ourselves.

I also learned that shortchanging myself when times are good means that I’m definitely a victim whenever a crisis hits. If I’m a victim, I can’t help anyone who never really stood a chance. It’s a domino effect.

That was 2020. I learned to take charge of my free will in order to give myself what I need by putting my advantages to good use. I don’t regret them, I don’t apologise for them, but I do take on the responsibility that they come with. I’ve learned to enjoy that freedom and responsibility. I acknowledged all my good and bad points, owned them, built some good stuff on them. This way, I don’t get to blame anyone else for my mistakes. I don’t get to blame my culture, my upbringing, my environment, somebody else. Instead, I build my life on my strengths and the advantages that all these things gave me – while I dull my weaknesses and, eventually, transcend the bad hands that were dealt me. And, in the first place, I’m actually alive. I’m so relieved I’m still healthy and breathing (and still around to think about what to do with my hair next.) I get to wake up and run my life, eat, be silly and fantastic in the little ways I’m silly and fantastic. I get to be able to even be myself. So many don’t have that privilege.

I titled this post ‘Stolen Joys’ because what I got from this year was snatched from the jaws and clutches of a year that was supposed to be horrible. Yet such fine pearls and life came from it, things I haven’t even mentioned here.

I’m truly grateful.

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